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12,000 TROOPS HEAD TO MIAMI

Nearly 12,000 additional federal troops heading here will fan out across flattened suburbs to sell the reluctant on the idea of leaving unsafe homes for the relative comfort of tent cities, the military said.

"They will go out into the community to each block and neighborhood so they can put their arms around people and tell them it's OK," Lt. Col. Bill Reynolds, a spokesman for the military information center in Miami, said Thursday.The first of the 11,600 additional troops were to arrive this morning, said Maj. Ed Larkin, a spokesman at Forces Command in Atlanta, which is responsible for all U.S.-based Army troops.

They will join 16,000 other troops and 6,000 members of the Florida National Guard in the area.

Residents of devastated southern suburbs have so far been reluctant to leave their homes and what few possessions they have left to sleep on cots in one of five tent cities.

As of Thursday night only about 300 people were living in the makeshift camps, which so far have room for 3,800. The Army has enough tents and cots on hand to sleep 35,000 people, if necessary.

The weather made it worse for people living in damaged homes. Rain poured through broken windows and swelled sagging ceilings and beams on Thursday, and a tropical wave - a spinning storm system of rain, thunder and lightning - was expected to arrive Saturday.

Reluctance to move into the tent cities was to be expected, said Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton, who joined the long line of politicians visiting south Florida.

Clinton refused to join any criticism of how President Bush handled the crisis but promised to assume responsibility for hurricane relief if he is elected.